[Source: Round Hainan Regatta] Famous for being China’s only tropical island with a tropical monsoon climate, Hainan isn’t just one of the country’s top vacation spots. The surrounding waters and wind conditions as well as the world class marinas make Hainan the ideal and natural venue for hosting international sailing events.
Created in 2010 by the Chinese Yachting Association (CYA) and strongly backed by the government, the Round Hainan Regatta forms part of the plan to place the island on the world sailing map and develop sailing-related business. It is one of China’s major international sailing events, starting and finishing in Sanya, at the island’s southernmost tip. Sanya played host to a hugely successful Volvo Ocean Race stopover in 2012 and will again repeat next February.
Now in its fifth edition, the regatta has grown by leaps and bounds, having increased in quantity and, equally importantly, quality. A total of 372 sailors from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Russia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Italy, The Netherlands, Singapore, Malaysia, Germany and France will take part this year. The island’s tropical climate combined with the close and demanding sailing the regatta provides are obvious attractions for European and North American sailors, giving local crews the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the world’s biggest names and hone their skills.
Preparations for the Round Hainan Regatta 2014
The 45-strong fleet is divided this year into five divisions, IRC A, IRC B, Beneteau Oceanis 40, Soto 27 and for the first time ever Fareast 26. All classes will start on March 21st with two days of in-port races in Sanya, including one Pro-Am for the IRC A, IRC B and Beneteau Oceanis 40 classes that will mix sponsors and media with crews for a first-hand experience in yacht racing.
The one-design Soto 27 and Fareast 26 fleets will conclude their participation in the fifth edition of the Round Hainan Regatta on March 23rd with their third day of in-port races in Sanya.
On the same day, the IRC A’s and Beneteau Oceanis 40′s will embark on the 470-mile long round-the-island race in two stages. The first one will take them from Sanya to Haikou, sailing along the island’s west coast. After a lay day in Haikou and another one of in-port races in Haikou, the fleet will depart from the island’s capital on March 26th and head back to Sanya, this time along the east coast.
The IRC B’s will hold a long coastal race around the East and West island on Sanya bay on March 23rd and after a lay day will head on the 25th to Wanning, on the east coast of the island. After a coastal race around the islands of Zhouzai and Jiajing on the 26th, the fleet will set sail on March 27th towards Sanya where it will join the IRC A’s for the cosing and prize-giving ceremony on the 28th.
The IRC A favorites are Maibo, the Chinese JV52 skippered by Yi Wu. The IRC B class will, undoubtedly, steal the spotlight as it combines star-studded foreign entries, Chinese Volvo Ocean Race aspiring sailors as well as seasoned Chinese participants. The form guide favors Vatti, a Beneteau F40.9 from Shenzen that scored a commanding victory in last year’s race. Skipper Jono Rankine has assembled a crew made up of local sailors and big-name Australians and New Zealanders such as Malcolm Page, gold medalist in the 470 class in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Preparations for the Round Hainan Regatta 2014
Team Dongfeng, the Chinese Volvo Ocean Race entry, will also take part in the IRC B division with two boats, crewed by aspiring Chinese sailors, making this its first participation in a major sailing event on home waters.
For the first time ever, organizers will provide a fleet of Beneteau Oceanis 40′s giving overseas competitors that cannot bring their own boat the opportunity to take part. All five boats of the fleet will be crewed by Russians, members of YC Navygator.
The high-octane one-design Soto 27 class will be represented by a total of ten entries. GMGE/Koo Racing stands out as the favorite, being crewed by some of Asia’s finest match racers. Malaysia’s siblings Tiffany and Jeremy Koo will be joined by Singapore’s top match racer Maximilian Soh and two Chinese sailors.
In yet another first, organizers will provide six Fareast 26′s, giving talented Chinese sailors the opportunity to race in a top-level event. This proves the commitment of organizers to develop high-quality Chinese athletes and grow the sport of sailing in the country.
The weather forecast calls for a couple of light-air first days, with a breeze between 5 and 10 knots, but conditions will later strengthen and the wind will reach up to 20 knots in the final days.